When you're looking around for help with interior design it can feel like there's way too much information out there, and yet there's still not enough. The Internet, the TV and the newsstands are constantly overflowing with design ideas and inspiration, but for most people, getting from the appealing interiors in the pictures to transforming their own homes seems like an impossible leap.
I won't say it's easy, but it's definitely not impossible. And it's a very satisfying process once you really get into it. The key is to find a handful of good resources (and possibly a good interior designer or remodeling contractor to consult with) — could be three, could be thirty — to help you decide what you like AND how to get the job done. Here are some sources that I recommend (personal taste notwithstanding) to get you started.
An elegant website with thousand of photos of interiors (as well as exteriors, landscapes, etc.) in a range of styles, such as Asian, Eclectic, Traditional, even Tropical. You can also browse content by room, interior element or product; post questions for professional designers; or link to designers' pages to see more of their work and learn about their firms or services. A handy "Ideabook" feature lets you save images you like, and thousands of others' Ideabooks and blog entries are free for the browsing. Whether you're having a go at garden design in Dallas or you're decorating a loft in New York, Houzz is a good place to identify what styles appeal to you.
Interactive help with choosing paint colors. Register for free and use their online program to upload a photo of your room then test out a wide range of colors. Color offerings include major paint brands like Benjamin-Moore, Sherwin-Williams and Glidden, among others. A paid membership ($12/month) comes with more sophisticated tools and additional options.
This is professional-grade color selection software plus access to the fandecks of all the major paint manufacturers. The dowloadable software costs about $40 and comes with a range of sophisticated tools for trying out colors on different textures and materials or mixing and matching base and topcoat colors. Official color coding ensures accuracy when ordering paints at your local dealer.
My wife likes this site, which I note for two reasons: She has good taste (in my opinion), and she's doesn't have a lot of time to surf the Web in search of her own "likes" and "dislikes." Pinterest is an online pinboard, a place where people post things they find appealing, including lots of home decorating and remodeling ideas. A great tool for finding cool products, inspiration and resources without having to do the browsing yourself. (By the way, we're on Pinterest!)
Instructables is the MacGuyver of DIY sites. User-posted how-tos teach you how to build anything from a camping hot tub to a duct-tape canoe. You'll also find elegant, professionally designed pieces like Barnaby Gunning's 8x4=2 tables.
Powered by Old House Journal and Old House Interiors magazines, this website is an extensive compendium of articles, how-to advice and information on period decorating and old house restoration. It's also an excellent sourcebook for authentic reproduction hardware and materials. An essential destination for anyone making over any part of a historic home (even if you use "historic" with the utmost generosity).
…or The New Decorating with Architectural Trimwork; both are by Jay Silber. Trimwork and other permanent details are an important part of designing almost every style of interior, and this book does a nice job of showing how to use and install many types of popular molding and other elements. If you're looking for more background (and less how-to) on designing with all kinds of interior features, I recommend the companion book, Decorating with Architectural Details, written by yours truly. Both books are out of print, but there are plenty of cheap copies floating around out there.
If you like the website Apartment Therapy or Design*Sponge (see below), you should check out these books by the sites' creators. They have the same sparkling creativity and practical approaches to better living. Apartment Therapy also has additional titles focusing on apartments and other small oases.
Not to be confused with Strunk and White's timeless guidebook on English composition, this Elements of Style is the history of American and British interior decoration wrapped up in one gorgeous, academic yet accessible volume. If you have any interest in authentic period decorating, whether it is Art Nouveau or Post Modern, or if you'd just like to see how it was really done at the time, it's worth finding a copy of this at the library (or buying a good used copy online). For people who like interiors, this book is truly addictive.
Lauri Ward's popular guide to basic decorating is a good standard for those who want to start simple and go from there (like most of us with limited—or extremely limited—budgets). The focus here is living spaces, and the living room in particular, so look elsewhere for help with bathrooms and kitchens. It conveys essential design and decorating concepts through practical application and real-home examples.
Another one to check out at the library: Written by architect and author Francis D. K. Ching, this is an authoritative guide to design theory and best practices, plus it's full of useful technical information, like tabletop heights, shelving dimensions and all kinds of building materials and systems. The crisp black-line drawings are also a nice, mind-clearing break from typical design resources.
Wells of Inspiration
Soaking up style since 2004, Design*Sponge has become a major destination in the world of contemporary homespun design, and it remains full of doable, truly creative stuff. Founder Grace Bonney has perfected the blog "voice" with a personal yet professional tone.
The slogan of this online heavyweight speaks to its DIY spirit: "Saving the world, one room at a time." Full of real people and what they've done to improve their real dwellings. I especially like their "House Tours"—extensive visual walkthroughs of contributor's homes, scuffs and all.
14. Young House Love
Loads of design and decorating ideas…by DIYers, for DIYers.
15. Design Milk
There are many, many sites devoted to modern design: that includes interior design, industrial design, architecture, art, furniture, fashion…and people who may or may not take themselves too seriously. Admittedly, I love this stuff. Design Milk is just one of good ones I've found.